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Rutgers football: RU's focus on wins, not who's QB

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Monday, October 24, 2005


Star-Ledger Staff

Business as usual.

That's what Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said this week will be for the Scarlet Knights, even with the uncertainty at the quarterback situation -- and especially with the heady prospect of the school becoming bowl eligible for the first time in 13 years with a victory over visiting Navy on Saturday.

"We approach it all the same. I know that's sometimes a little boring," Schiano said. "But we really have practiced and preached (that you focus on) what you can control right now and we won't change that.

"I'm not naive that as you get closer to some of the goals you set for yourself that if you're not careful you start to squeeze it a little too tight. I will make sure our guys are reminded that they've put themselves in the position they have by focusing on the job at hand each and every day."

That position, following Saturday's 26-24 victory at Connecticut, is a 5-2 record -- the school's best seven-game start since 1991, with three of the final four games at home.

For now, Schiano may actually welcome the distraction that his quarterback situation brings, because it will divert attention from some of the bowl talk.

Redshirt freshman Mike Teel, who replaced Ryan Hart one game earlier as the starter, came out after an ineffective first half against the Huskies (the Knights trailed 10-3 then) because of an injury to his throwing shoulder. Hart, a senior who owns most of the school's passing records, came on in the second half to throw three touchdown passes as the Knights won their second straight Big East road game -- with last week's at Syracuse being the first outside the state of Pennsylvania.

In the first 14 years of the Big East, Rutgers had gone 4-41-1 in league road games, winning at Temple three times and at Pittsburgh once.

This team has won three road games overall already, the first Rutgers team to do that since 1988.

But for now, with surging Navy coming in with a four-game winning streak, Schiano doesn't have a quarterback starter with Teel's health still uncertain.

Schiano said he will wait until later in the week before making a decision on a starter.

"I'm not going to get into what we're doing because I don't know if (Teel) is healthy," Schiano said. "Right now there are issues involved. Until I have all the facts I'm going to wait. When I have them all and feel comfortable with the information, then we'll make a clear decision and go with it."

Teel, erratic in his first two starts (four interceptions in 49 attempts in those games, seven picks in 75 attempts for the season), had Rutgers' medical staff check his shoulder at the half.

"I said, 'Tell the truth. How is it?' He said, 'It's hurting, Coach,'" Schiano said. "That's it. That's all he had to say."

Teel first suffered the injury at Syracuse two games ago, but seemed to improve in the days leading up to the UConn game. Schiano said he aggravated the injury when he got hit twice in the first half.

"Once directly on it. Then he was slammed to the ground," Schiano said.

Hart not only saw his streak of 32 consecutive starts end at Syracuse, he didn't even take a snap. But his three TD passes against UConn gave him the school career record (45). All three drives were set up by the running of freshman Ray Rice, who rushed for 217 yards -- the fourth-highest total in school history.

"All along we've said he's a special back," Schiano said.

Notes: Starting left guard Jeremy Zuttah appears doubtful for the Navy game because of an ankle injury, but LB Will Gilkison (groin) has a chance to return for the first time in three games, Schiano said....

Rice's rushing total helped push Rutgers to more than 1,000 yards (1,077) as a team after seven games. The Knights rushed for 918 yards all of last season.... A victory over Navy would give Rutgers its best start since 1979.


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